Join us in recognizing May as Mental Health Month. It’s a time to raise awareness for the challenges faced by our residents and their families. It’s a time to acknowledge their pain and show support for their wellbeing. Emily Frazier, LISW-S, Clinical Director of our Children’s Residential Center, gives us insight into youth mental health and how we can surround young lives with the best treatment.
What trends are you seeing in youth mental health?
This can be a difficult question to answer. Many times, a person can have a genetic predisposition towards a mental health issue. If the gene promoter is not ‘turned on,’ the issue does not manifest or show symptoms. What we know from research is that stress is a gene promoter. Often, the stress of trauma ‘turns on’ these otherwise latent tendencies, so mental health issues emerge. Often, trauma also contributes to depression, anxiety and attention difficulties as well as other mental health problems. Often, as clinicians, we are trained to recognize and treat the symptoms of the problem, however, treating the symptoms alone does not effectively treat the root or underlying cause. It becomes difficult to isolate the variables as many symptoms of mental health issues can be attributed to a Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnoses. Often, there are co-occurring behavioral conditions that correspond. This could be oppositional defiant disorder or even a substance use/abuse problem that started as a means of self-medication.
If you have a youth in your life dealing with any of those challenges, how can you best support them?
Find ways to remove the stigma of mental health issues. Offer support and validation, encourage them to take medications as prescribed and attend counseling/therapy appointments. Often these two things need to work in tandem to create long-term success. Parents, teachers and other adults in a child’s life should try to understand that puberty/hormone fluctuations in adolescents can contribute to/exacerbate underlying mental health issues.
Be aware that adolescence is difficult. Between peer pressure, choosing career paths, figuring out who you are as a person, becoming less dependent on family, etc., it is a difficult time to manage. When you factor in trauma, mental health issues, lack of family support, etc., this can become nearly impossible to navigate. Ask questions, show interest, be empathetic and seek connection with them. Here are some helpful tips on communicating with teens, but these can be used for communicating with any child.
How does a mix of treatment best help youth successfully manage their mental health?
Medications are helpful in correcting chemical imbalances in the brain that contribute to mental health symptoms. Therapy seeks to resolve underlying issues that correspond with symptoms and teaching skills to cope or manage them. Therapy stresses the importance of self-awareness and knowledge of triggers and reactions/responses to them. Therapy also helps a client to understand their diagnoses. This includes symptoms and how they personally experience them. Once they have an awareness of this, they can truly begin to learn how to cope and manage it long term.
Case management can help provide linkage to community resources/supports as well as providing assistance/advocacy with schools, probation/court systems, etc. It often requires a combination of these services to fully impact mental health problems and assist in long-term success/management.
What will it look like for CCHO residents to manage their mental health into adulthood?
Managing mental health for our residents means finding and utilizing support systems, maintaining medications (if needed) and working towards implementing coping skills that work for them. This also includes learning new coping skills that can be utilized in a variety of settings. Sometimes, with trauma work, mental health symptoms will resolve. Residents will need to continue to work on healthy coping skills to manage stress and continue progressing; this could involve physical, spiritual and emotional components. By putting these practices and supports in place, our residents can have a positive mental wellbeing and achieve their life goals/dreams as adults.
Taking care of mental health is just as important as physical health. If a youth you care about needs support, please reach out to us today. One of our Encompass clinicians would be happy to connect with you.